After medical tests at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine revealed a potential heart condition, the draft stock of star defensive tackle Star Lotulelei of Utah was thrown for a loop.
Previously considered a strong possibility for the top three and potentially even the No. 1 overall pick, that made the 6'2", 311-pound All-American's pro day on Wednesday absolutely essential to his chances of possibly vaulting himself back into the top 10 of April's draft.
According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Lotulelei came through in a big way.
He tested well across the board Wednesday, a source told Schad. The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Lotulelei unofficially recorded a 30-inch vertical leap, registered 38 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press and clocked a 4.65 time in the shuttle run, the source said.
Adam Schefter of ESPN confirmed Schad's assessment of the workout.
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Good day for Star. RT @schadjoe: Utah DL Star Lotulelei Pro Day standout: Bench of 38. 30 vertical. 3 cone of 7.76 and shuttle of 4.65.2013-3-20 18:03:31
Meanwhile, Gil Brandt of the NFL Network reported that Lotulelei's agent didn't want him to run the 40-yard dash due to conditioning concerns, but the big man did it anyway.
Gil Brandt @Gil_Brandt
Agent Bruce Tollner didn't want Lotulelei to run cuz of conditioning, but Star said he wanted to run w/ teammates. Ran 2 40s (5.31, 5.36)2013-3-20 21:28:05
The NFL Network's Akbar Gbajabiamila feels that Lotulelei's strong workout has vaulted him back into consideration to be the first overall pick.
Akbar Gbajabiamila @Akbar_Gbaja
I'm expecting Star Lotulelei name to be cemented in the #NFLDraft 1st pick conversation after his Pro Day at Utah http://t.co/PMkoBkidKZ2013-3-20 15:27:53
Even more important than Lotulelei's strong workout may have been the clean bill of health that he's been given, according to Schad.
After Wednesday's workout, Lotulelei told reporters he was medically cleared a week after the combine and speculated the initial abnormality may have been caused by a virus.
"Even when I got it tested a week after [in Salt Lake City], it was showing improvement," Lotulelei told reporters, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "Hopefully in the drills, I showed them I can move well for a big guy."
Lotulelei certainly appeared to do just that, but as Dr. Jene Bramel, a staff writer for Football Guys and a practicing physician, pointed out on his "Second Opinion" blog, it's Lotulelei's ticker that remains the $64 million question.
I think it’s safe to assume that Lotulelei’s followup testing after the Combine did not reveal a severe, irreversible heart condition that would preclude him from strenuous athletic activity. That leaves two possible scenarios.
Scenario 1: Lotulelei’s followup testing and any additional testing in Indianapolis shows improvement, but still below normal function, without a clear, established diagnosis. Additional testing and comparisons to previous studies could shed light on those issues. But it’s also possible that teams won’t have a clear answer on Lotulelei’s health by draft day. If this scenario plays out, teams will have a hard time clearing Lotulelei to play and will certainly struggle to invest a high draft pick in a player whose long term health remains in question.
Scenario 2: Lotulelei’s followup testing and any additional testing in Indianapolis shows no abnormalities and a normal ejection fraction.This is the best case scenario for Lotulelei’s long term health, draft stock and NFL career. But teams will still have questions.
So, while Star Lotulelei's solid pro day may have impressed some and allayed doubts with others, as CBS Sports' Rob Rang reports, the big man still has at least one more hurdle to clear.
Rob Rang @RobRang
Star Lotulelei to work out today. Combine re-check April 5-6 more critical as he's currently off some teams' boards: http://t.co/U49ZhzKJC72013-3-20 16:01:24
And it's the most important hurdle of all.